Contact the NJ Historical Commission
NJ Historical Commission
P.O. Box 305
Trenton, NJ 08625
Tel: (609) 292-6062
Fax: (609) 633-8168
Paterson Poet, William Carlos Williams
New Jersey is home to many great writers, including poet William Carlos Williams, who immortalized the industrial city of Paterson in an epic poem in five volumes published between 1946 and 1958. The son of an English father and Puerto Rican mother, Williams wrote about the tensions between these two cultures, as well as the daily world around him. He was also a practicing pediatrician in his hometown of Rutherford.
Invention of the Telegraph
Samuel Morse and Alfred Vail sent the first telegram using Morse code, and the first in America, on January 11, 1838 in Morristown, New Jersey from the Speedwell Ironworks. It was the beginning of a revolution in communications, as soon there were lines linking all the major cities on the East Coast. By 1861, the telegraph connected the West Coast to the East Coast, bringing an end to the Pony Express.
Campbell Soup Company
Campbell's Soup is one of the world's best known brands, and it is still headquartered in Camden, New Jersey, where it began operations in 1869. It started with the Jersey beefsteak tomato, and tomato soup is still the company's most popular brand.
Ten Crucial Days
Christmas Day 1776 was a turning point in America's fight to become independent. General George Washington orchestrated a stealth crossing of the Delaware River at what is now known as Washington's Crossing. The late day crossing allowed his troops to advance towards Trenton by the next morning, where they launched a surprise attack on the British. The Battle of Trenton, followed quickly by the Battle of Princeton, were ten crucial days that marked a turning point in the War for Independence.
Thomas Edison's Light Bulb
Thomas Alva Edison perfected the first commercially viable incandescent light bulb, giving a sensational public demonstration of it on December 31, 1879. The light bulb and many other inventions were developed at Edison's laboratory in Menlo Park, New Jersey, which many consider the first industrial research laboratory. Later Edison moved his operations to West Orange, New Jersey, which is the current site of the Thomas Edison National Historical Park.
First Football and Baseball Games
The first modern games of football and baseball were both played in New Jersey. Princeton and Rutgers students played a game of football in 1896, and the Knickerbockers played at Elysian Fields in Hoboken in 1846.
Alexander Hamilton and New Jersey
Alexander Hamilton was a founding father of the United States and its first Secretary of the Treasury. During the Revolutionary War, he served as chief staff aide to General George Washington in the Battles of Trenton and Princeton. Later, he created the "Society for the Establishment of Useful Manufactures" in Paterson, New Jersey, a site chosen for the energy produced by the Great Falls of the Passaic River. In 1804, Hamilton was shot and killed in a duel by Vice-President of the United States Aaron Burr. A monument marks the site in Weehawken, New Jersey.
Bell Labs: Communication Innovation
Researchers working at Bell Labs in Murray Hill and Holmdel, New Jersey are credited with the development of radio astronomy, the transistor, the laser, the UNIX operating system, and more. Started in the late 19th century by Alexander Graham Bell, Bell Labs has remained at the forefront of communications technology for over 100 years. A dedication to basic research has resulted in eight Nobel Prizes for work conducted at Bell Labs.
Miss America and Atlantic City
The Miss America beauty pageant started as a way to keep tourists on the Atlantic City boardwalk past the Labor Day holiday's "end of summer." Margaret Gorman was the first winner of the "Inter Cities Beauty Pageant" in 1921, an event that drew over a hundred thousand spectators. The Miss America pageant returned to Atlantic City in 2013 after a nine year absence.
The New Jersey Turnpike
The New Jersey Turnpike is more than a road, it's a cultural icon. Built in only two years, it opened in November 1951, changing the landscape of the state forever. As this episode states in conclusion, "Amid all the congestion and all the concrete, the New Jersey Turnpike continues to provide a window on New Jersey, with all its grit... and all its glory."
The Five NJ Signers
Five New Jerseyans signed the Declaration of Independence in 1776, putting their lives, liberty, and property at stake. Meet Frances Hopkinson, John Witherspoon, Abraham Clark, John Hart, and Richard Stockton.
Lighthouses of New Jersey
Sandy Hook Light at the Jersey Shore is the oldest lighthouse still in operation in America. New Jersey's coastline can be treacherous, and shipwrecks endangered lives and property. The construction of Sandy Hook Light was undertaken in response to tremendous losses of ships and cargo in the winter of 1761. 43 New York merchants petitioned their lieutenant governor to build the lighthouse. After three years and considerable expense, Sandy Hook began to shine twelve years before the American Revolution, lit by "48 oil blazes." Sandy Hook is one of many historic New Jersey lighthouses, including Twin Lights, "Old Barney," and others.
Molly Pitcher at the Battle of Monmouth
Was Molly Pitcher a real woman, or a composite character representing many women who pitched in to help on the battlefields of the Revolutionary War? Historians disagree on Molly Pitcher's identity, but agree that women played a vital role in the battle for freedom. This story features re-enactment footage of the Battle of Monmouth, where the soldier Joseph Plumb Martin recalled seeing a woman take over when her husband was wounded.
The Bordentown School
It was called the “Tuskegee of the North,” it was formally known as the New Jersey Industrial and Manual Training School for Colored Youth. Eventually, it was best known simply as the Bordentown School, a leader in black education from Reconstruction until the 1950s. Founded in 1876, the school was a boarding school for boys and girls. Bordentown could be mistaken for an elite private boarding school, but it was actually a co-educational public school operated by the State of New Jersey
Frank Sinatra and the Hoboken Four
Frank Sinatra was one of the most famous entertainers of the 20th Century, and his first big break happened in his hometown of Hoboken, NJ. In 1935, he joined the Hoboken Four. They appeared on the Major Bowes Amateur Hour, winning first prize: a six-month touring and recording contract. In later years, Sinatra came to be associated with Palm Springs and Las Vegas, but he remained close to his family and friends in New Jersey.
The Lindbergh Baby Kidnapping: “The Crime of the Century”
In 1932, Charles A. Lindbergh, Jr. disappeared from the nursery at the home of his parents, the famous aviator Charles Lindbergh and his fellow aviator and wife, Anne Morrow Lindbergh. Although a ransom was paid, the child was not returned alive. It was a crime that rocked the nation, coming only a few years after Lucky Lindy had made history with the first solo non-stop flight from New York to Paris in 1927.
Morristown: The Winter of 1779-1780
The winter of 1779-1780 severe, and George Washington's army suffered greatly during their stay in Jockey Hollow, near Morristown, New Jersey. This episode of "It Happened Here: New Jersey" features footage from "Morristown: Where America Survived," an NJN documentary produced by Bob Szuter and featuring the videography of Jeff Reisly. The reenactors in the footage are from Second New Jersey Regiment, Helms’ Company, a group of volunteers dedicated to portraying the men and women of the American Revolution.
Haddy the Dinosaur
One of paleontology's most important events happened in New Jersey. In 1858, the first nearly complete dinosaur skeleton found in America was discovered by William Parker Foulke in a marl pit in Haddonfield, New Jersey. Hadrosaurus Foulkii went on to become the country's first publicly displayed dinosaur skeleton. Now New Jersey's state dinosaur, Haddy continues to draw crowds!
Effa Manley and the Newark Eagles
Effa Manley, with her husband Abe, was the co-owner of the Newark Eagles and the first woman inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame. The Eagles won the Negro League World Series in 1946 against the Kansas Monarchs. Among the Eagles players during her ownership were future major league stars such as Larry Doby, who in 1947 was the first player to integrate the American League.
The Founding of New Jersey
New Jersey began as a royal gift from James, Duke of York, to Sir George Carteret and Lord Berkeley. It was named after a battle fought to defend the Isle of Jersey in the English Channel. New Jersey marks its 350th anniversary on June 24, 2014 with a look back at the colonial roots of New Jersey, originally divided into territories known as East Jersey and West Jersey.
The New Jersey Plan
The Constitutional Convention was held in Philadelphia in 1787. The "Great Compromise" combined elements of the New Jersey Plan, put forth by William Paterson, that proposed two representatives from each state regardless of population, with the proposal that representatives be given based on population.
Born in Bernardsville, she was elected to the United States House of Representatives at the age of 64. She became known for her energy, enthusiasm, and strong views. She was considered a moderate, progressive Republican and was outspoken in favor of civil rights and the women's movement.
Lincoln in Trenton
Abraham Lincoln journeyed through New Jersey by train in February 1861. He was on his way to his first inauguration in Washington, D.C. Although the state had not voted for Lincoln, he was invited to speak at the State House in Trenton, where he addressed both the Senate and the General Assembly.
The 28th president of the United States, Woodrow Wilson, began his political career in New Jersey. A popular professor, he was known for his speeches. He became president of Princeton University in 1902 and then governor of New Jersey from 1911 to 1913.
Einstein in Princeton
Albert Einstein is the world's most famous theoretical physicist. He received the Nobel Prize for Physics in 1921. When Hitler came to power in 1933, Einstein was visiting the United States; he decided not to return to Germany. He settled in Princeton, New Jersey, becoming an American citizen in 1940. Einstein was a familiar figure about town on his bicycle. He was affiliated with the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton until his death.
Paul Robeson: Civil Rights Activist
Paul Robeson was both an internationally renowned actor, singer and an activist for civil rights. Born in Princeton, he attended Rutgers University where he was a football All-American and the class valedictorian. Robeson stood up for workers and the oppressed, and embraced sometimes unpopular causes such as the Spanish Civil War. He was blacklisted during the McCarthy era, and his career never fully recovered.
Thomas Mundy Peterson, First African-American Voter
Thomas Mundy Peterson lived in Perth Amboy, where he became the first African-American to vote after the passage of the 15th Amendment in 1870, which prohibits federal and state governments from denying a citizen the right to vote based on that citizen's "race, color, or previous condition of servitude.
1936 State House Occupation
The depression was in its seventh year, and things got even worse when relief efforts were suspended on April 15, 1936 due to lack of funds. Protesters took over the state house for eight days in an early "occupy" movement.
Rosie the Riveter
When the U.S. declared war, production increased dramatically and in a short amount of time. Auto factories were converted to build airplanes, shipyards were expanded, and new factories were constructed. All of these facilities needed workers since so many men volunteered or were drafted for military service.
Fort Lee Studios: Where the Movie Magic Began
Motion pictures were invented and first produced at Thomas Edison’s laboratory and studio in West Orange. Fort Lee - just across from New York City - became a key site for early film production.
Paterson Silk Strike of 1913
The Paterson Silk Strike of 1913 lasted 5 months, shutting down some 300 mills and dye houses, and attracting national headlines and support. Although worker demands were not met, the historic strike left behind a legacy of solidarity and common purpose that reached far beyond Paterson.
Alice Paul, Women's Rights Activist
This episode of "It Happened Here: New Jersey" features Alice Stokes Paul (1885-1977), a women's rights activist who led the campaign for women's suffrage resulting in the passage of the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution in 1920, which prohibits discrimination in the right to vote. Alice Paul grew up near Moorestown, New Jersey. Her family home, Paulsdale, is now the Alice Paul Institute.